Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Living for the weekend

Haha, really, who isn't? This past one was particularly good, as a good friend, Nat, came up from Busan (where she is also teaching English at a particularly heinous-sounding girl's middle school) for a weekend in the country (virtually). Korea isn't a very big country, and the transport networks here are excellent, but since Cheongju doesn't merit a KTX (the Korean bullet train) station yet, it's still a good 3.5 hour ride to get here, not to mention the almost one hour commute from where Nat lives in Busan to the bus station and then another 40 minutes on the bus/25 minutes in a taxi to my place from the other end. So it's a bit of a trek all in all, and made me all the happier that she'd managed to squeeze in the trip up before she leaves us in 3 weeks time for snowy Canada. Seeing that there was all that travel involved to get here, what did we have planned I hear you ask? Well, pending good weather, originally we'd decided to do a mini-hike up and around Sangdang Fortress and be all sporty and outdoorsy like, but a chance remark by Nat about how she missed watching DVDs on a real TV screen instead of her computer made us think about how nice a relaxing day of cake, makkolli and DVDs might be... only if the weather was bad of course, because it'd be a waste of a nice day otherwise. Then I mentioned this cute cafe that does a kind of mix of foods in Cheongju, including their famous Carbonara Bread - literally, a full serving of Spaghetti Carbonara served inside a hollowed out bread roll the size of a damper. We amended our plans to see if we could fit that in AND still do the hiking. We decided we could. Then Nat brought up Missha's new vibrating mascara applicator - something that OBVIOUSLY had to be investigated! Ok, we could fit that in too. We stayed up gossiping and reading trashy girly mags for a few hours, and then hit the hay, full of good resolutions about the morrow.

Saturday dawned, bright and clear, sunny if not actually warm. Perfect outdoors weather really. We discussed what we wanted to do that day - hiking, eating, shopping, cake, dvds, makkolli. Yeah, we could fit that all in. We looked at each other. We looked outside. We thought about cake and shopping. So ... hiking? Hah.

Now, upon arriving, Nat had immediately sought out a Subway store (which apparently they don't have in Busan so score one much needed point for Cheongju!) and bought a sub, which she ate out of pure relish even though she wasn't that hungry. In retrospect, this was a sign of things to come, because as well intentioned as we started out, Saturday became The Day We Ate Too Much. In all fairness, we probably did burn quite a few calories walking around downtown Cheongju. To begin with, we found the mascara, but for 25 000 won and another 11 000 for the matching eyeliner, we decided that it was a novelty best left for someone with higher eyelash priorities than us. We also found some great, and I mean GREAT shirts. OK, so most of them had a pretty good crack at English, but somehow, I think they probably didn't bother getting a native speaker to proof-read them first. Or maybe they did :p

And of course, Nat and I had to buy some and do some couple-wear! But onto the food. So to start with, we wandered down to the traditional markets (the best one in Cheongju is called yukgori shijang) and since we were a little peckish and there was this great mandu (dumpling) store, of course we had to try them out.

Eating ddokgalbi
Unfortunately, since we couldn't decide between the giant steamed ones ('King Size') and fried, we got both, and since they were only sold in 3's and 5's respectively, that was a lot of mandu. Keeping in mind that the mandu store was called "Elephant Mandu" to begin with, you can probably guess that the King Sized steamed mandu were about the size of a nashi. Next, we strolled around and back down to the main shopping area, and I remembered that there was a great ddokgalbi stall that Nat simply had to try. Ddokgalbi is usually a kind of marinated mince meat patty, but this one was special because it was wrapped around a giant rice-cake and grilled, then covered in your choice of three sweet sticky sauces, savoury, spicy and 'bomb' flavour (폭탄맛). We went for a wander past the graffiti alley and over one of the bridges over the stream, and then dropped in by Homeplus on our way back downtown for some supplies - i.e. makkolli and chips.
After a good few hours of shopping, we finished it off by going by Bonjour chocolate and cake cafe, and after drooling over how good everything looked, settled on two slices of cake... each. Believe me, this was downsizing - earlier in the day when we weren't quite as full we'd originally agreed on three. However, then Nat saw the raspberry jam-filled cookies and tarts.... well, we put it this way: how often does she come to Cheongju? And it's not like there's a Bonjour cafe in Busan! We left with a slice of yoghurt cheesecake, fresh strawberry cake, black forest cake and a slice of blueberry cheesecake, as well as a strawberry tart, an almondine tart thing, a bunch of biscuits, and some extras that the guy serving us had thrown in for good measure since we were buying up half the shop. There was one more stop on our way home - Artbox, that mecca of everything cute and artsy! Although it's mostly stationary, Artbox has lots of great stuff, including clothing and accessories, some makeup (including Chupa-Chup lip glosses that look like lollipops) and little gadgets (like a Starbucks coffee-cup shaped humidifier) and, well, everything! It also has a pick'n'mix station.

This was what we'd foraged:

Well supplied, we settled down to watch the movie we'd picked. We had no idea what it was about, but we'd wanted something light-hearted and funny, so we figured that picking an animated movie from the children's section would be just right. Wrong. We'd picked up '9'. Five minutes into it, having seen two characters attacked by a weird scary robot that looked like a kind of cat-terminator in a dystopic post-apocalyptic landscape where one of them had just stuck a lamp on a pole into the eye socket of a baby-doll, we hastily turned it off and opted for the "First Wives Club" instead. (I later watched the rest of it and I'm glad we didn't watch the whole thing then because it was one of the saddest movies I've seen this year, which should be disallowed for animations. I actually cried at the end!)

Anyway, the rest of the day/evening was pretty routine. We stuffed ourselves on our goodies, and as bloated as we then were, it was entirely worth it :) Dinner was Mongolian lamb kebabs with some friends in Chungdae (one of the university areas in Cheongju) and then Nat's first time at a booking club, but I'm going to avoid writing another saga by fobbing it off as a post for another day. All in all, it was a great weekend, eating some great food with a great friend. Sod the calories! I ♥ you Nat! ^__^


  1. Oh so many things that I would like to comment on in this blog post because I remember doing them with you! Instead, I will just admit that I am incredibly jealous - it sounds like an amazing weekend!

  2. The carbonara in the bread sounds delicious!